William Greer, or Dabbs as we know him, was born on April 2, 1917 in Fairview, Missouri, as an only child. His acting career began at the age of eight in a Children’s Theatre production. He earned a B.A. in English from Drury College in Springfield, Missouri in 1939. While at Drury, he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha, President of the Drury Lane Troupers, and acted with the Springfield Little Theatre. Upon graduation, he taught speech and drama on the high school level in Mountain Grove, MO from 1940-43. Dabbs actively volunteered for Drury and was its class agent for 1939. In 1964, the Drury Alumni Association honored Dabbs with the Distinguished Alumni Award for Career Achievement. He was also their 1992 commencement speaker and received an honorary degree at that time. Leaving his teaching job, his next stepping-stone was the Pasadena Playhouse. Dabbs was an actor, instructor and administrator from 1943-50. Tired of his administrative duties, Dabbs left the Playhouse to further pursue his acting career.
Dabbs’ motion picture debut was in Reign of Terror (1949) with costars Robert Cummings, Arlene Dahl, Beulah Bondi, John Doucette and Dan Seymour. Mr. Greer’s resume reads like a “Who’s Who” as he worked with many of the greats that Hollywood has given us. Some of Dabbs’ films had great depth or meaning to them. The first of many westerns, The Devil’s Doorway (1950) with Robert Taylor dealt with prejudice against American Indians. He followed up with Storm Warning, a hard-hitting indictment of the Klu Klux Klan featuring Ronald Reagan, Ginger Rogers, and Doris Day. From thrillers and drama to comedy, Dabbs did it all. His comedic timing was evident during MGM ‘s Half A Hero in a scene he did with Red Skelton. To mention his entire film career, could easily take over the entire Hall of Fame section! Dabbs believed in the philosophy of “just keep on working” and this link will demonstrate that workhorse spirit in him
On The Small Screen
Mr. Greer was one of the most uncredited, yet recognizable actors in Hollywood. Dabbs appeared in most major and minor television series throughout his career from 1950-2003. For the eight episodes of Perry Mason, Dabbs had a great admiration for Raymond Burr and his professionalism – always on time, always ready with his many lines, and somewhat of a practical joker. Dabbs had a recurring role as Mr. Jonas on Gunsmoke, and also admired James Arness. He was working on the first episode of Wanted: Dead Or Alive (1958) with a very young Michael Landon. Dabbs didn’t think Landon would make it in the business, as he was unruly and undisciplined. Mr. Landon must have learned his lessons well as evidenced by several successful television series! In fact, during his stint as Reverend Alden on Little House on the Prairie, Dabbs seemed impressed with Michael Landon who was on the set for everyone, not just in his own scenes. On the Andy Griffith Show, Dabbs said when working with Andy, “what you see is what you got.” Dabbs worked in many westerns, both in film and on television; however, he did have a problem with horses. For an amusing account of this, visit the TAC link Dabbs Greer
(http://www.jimnolt.com/dabbsgreer.htm). Mr. Greer appeared in eight episodes of The Rifleman, many of which were sinister characters. In 1969, Minnie Pearl picked Dabbs with his lilting Missouri accent to be her leading man for the TV pilot of The Minnie Pearl Show, but the pilot was not green lighted by the networks and was never seen.
Greer passed away on April 28, 2007.
Dabbs Greer — Find A Grave